The British Medical Journal has studied a bizarre case study that describes doctors increasingly puzzled reaction to some pretty strange test results. It began when an 84-year-old Irish man entered the hospital complaining that he had recently been falling and had some weakness on the left side of his body. This is a common problem amongst older people and his doctor noted that the man showed no signs of facial weakness, vision or hearing problems, or confusion and memory loss. Blood tests also revealed relatively normal results.
But the brain scans were something else entirely. The doctors were left perplexed by the scans which showed what appeared to be a massive 3-inch gap in the man’s brain.
“We were able to see the brain scan images before receiving the formal report from our radiology specialists and immediately knew something was not right!” Dr Brown, co-author and physician at Causeway Hospital in Ireland, told reporters. “I wondered if the patient had previously undergone brain surgery or had a congenital abnormality we didn’t know about.”
Strangely, the man had neither a history of surgery nor a congenital defect. And doctors eventually realised he suffered from a pneumatocele, which is a type of pressurised air pocket in the brain cavity. It is most common amongst people who have had brain surgery or some kind of infection, but they are usually much smaller in size. The man had also suffered from a stroke, although it’s not clear if the two are related.
“To find a pocket of this size in an organized fashion was extremely uncommon, with very few documented cases found while I was researching for writing up the case report,” Brown said.
Doctors offered the man the option of surgery to correct the bubble but he declined. He was suffering no major ill effects and he wanted to avoid the risk of open brain surgery. He has, however, been medicated to reduce the risk of any further strokes.
“The pictures of the scans are striking and can be easily appreciated by the general public without radiological or even medical training!” Brown said, who went on to mention that he hoped the case would encourage doctors to think more deeply, and investigate further, cases where patients exhibit what appear to be otherwise mundane symptoms. After all, you never know what strange condition could be underlying them.